At What Cost?

AT WHAT COST_

I’ve been doing my best today to stay quiet and just can’t. We have a saying in our writer’s group: Bleed On the Blog. What we mean is that the best writing sometimes comes when we expose our soul for all to see. We pull back the curtain and just say what we’ve been thinking, throwing the consequences to the wind.

I rise today to take up the article D.C. McAllister wrote, Eric Metaxsas defended, and Roy Moore and President Trump inspired. The premise is simple: We’re all fallen and sinners. But just because someone is a sinner doesn’t mean that God doesn’t use us for His means and therefore, we are justified to vote for a man accused of sexual assault of then young girls. In fact McAllister seems to uses a perverted system of Two Kingdoms to justify such a view. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the theonomic nerds come out of their IPA induced hibernation to hold her up as an example of why Two Kingdoms is a dangerous teaching.

But I digress.

Let’s start with this “sacred” and “secular” confusion. McAllister writes “Unfortunately, many social conservatives, and Christians in particular, treat secular leaders as if they’re spiritual leaders, as if any stain on their character, fault from their distant past, or even theological apostasy disqualifies them from political leadership. They seem to fear that the personal sinfulness of a man will bring about the ruin of an entire party or nation…By erecting this standard, these critics come dangerously close to confusing the secular and the sacred, the city of man and the city of God.”

Let’s start by pointing out the obvious: No. As a Christian, I’m by no means asking for perfection. I know I’ll never get it. There will always be something about a candidate that I don’t like, be that moral, ideological, or theological. The only candidate I know I will 100% agree with is me. However, and I can’t stress this enough, sexual assault (especially with a minor) is the deal breaker. I’m not asking for perfect, I’m asking for the candidate to not be a sexual deviant. I’m not asking for theological purity. I’ll vote with those who hold to different interpretations. I’m asking for them to not think it’s acceptable to assault someone. That a pretty low bar.

But on the nature of Two Kingdoms, let’s address this as well. Yes I hold that there is both the City of God and City of Man, both in which Christ is King, and rules and overrules in those Cities differently. But they are not so divorced that we give a pass to one of the most heinous of sins. They are not so separated that the City of God cannot speak to the City of Man and say, “No this is the standard”. This is not utopia seeking. This is maintaining our witness.

“Political leaders, however, are not spiritual leaders with the same responsibilities, burdens, and covenantal obligations of leaders within Scripture. This doesn’t mean we can willy-nilly vote for immoral men” I agree. The Church is not the State, and the standards are different. However, what McAllister is justifying in this article isn’t to just vote willy-nilly. It’s to excuse sexual assault. She is asking us to vote for immoral men. This does not mean that we only have Christian doctors, and only do business with Christians. What it does mean, is that when choosing our leaders, morality matters.

Ultimately, what McAllister is asking for us to do, and Metaxas is defending is we sellout our witness for power. It’s the exchange of Gospel for the red stew of politics. It is the Temptation all over again, “If we surrender our vote, we will have all the kingdoms of the world.” But this City of Man is passing away. We are not Esau. If we give up our victorious message for “one more Senate seat” we will lose what is most dear.

I refuse to sit quietly by as the Moral (can we still call them this?) Majority Evangelical baptizes wicked individuals for more power. At what cost? Where do we then draw the line? Growing up, I was told to never give up the Gospel. I was taught to stand firm. That we are more faithful to God than we are to man. That’s counter to what McAllister is saying. She may say, “Am I concerned when I hear people saying morality doesn’t matter at all, as if we could put a complete miscreant in office and not care?.. Character matters!” but that is exactly what she is saying. “Character matters” when “they” on the other side of the aisle refuse to show it. But when a Senate seat or Oval Office is up for grabs, it’s time to not let moral failure be our guide.

So yes D.C. a sinner can still serve faithfully. However, the Church is called to reject these people, call them to repentance. Not baptize them and excuse their sins. It’s not worth it.

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The Exilic Identity of Believers (Part 1)

It is no secret that Christians feel lost in this sinful world. Often times we go through our day and we feel out of place. Sin is rampant, holiness is scarce. We are seen as “odd” because we wont partake in the folly of the world.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”- 1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV

But in 1 Peter, Peter is writing to Jews who are dispersed throughout the Roman Empire; and are likely under the rule of Nero. They live in a world that is very similar to ours. They are outcasts, misfits, they know that they don’t belong to this world anymore. They live in a time of severe persecution. And though our persecution likely isn’t anywhere near the level of theirs, the principles we draw from Peter’s two letters are nonetheless as valuable to us as they were to them.

Peter opens his letter by giving his readers an identity of hope: those who are elect exiles. That may not sound like an identity you would like to have, because who really wants to be an exile? But its really a term of endearment rather than a negative one. Yes they are exiles, but they are far more than that! They are elect exiles! Without a doubt this wording brought about the memories of the stories that they had heard many times from family members of how their ancestors lived in exile in Egypt and the freedom they finally experienced.

In verse 2 Peter gives his readers four reasons why they must endure the persecution and continue to live as exiles. First, their exile is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”. Second it is “for the sanctification of the Spirit”. Third, it is “for obedience to Jesus”. Lastly, it is “for sprinkling with blood”. Your exilic state has a purpose, namely to sanctify you.

If you take anything from 1 Peter 1:1-2  my desire is that you find your identity. You are an elect exile. Purposefully chosen and placed in your specific context to spread the Gospel. Take hope in Christ, who was pierced and died so that you could glorify Him in the world that hates Him.

The Ghostly Tale of Spurgeon and the Séance of 1928 by Christian George

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[The original link to this article can be found here. For all things Spurgeon, please visit The Spurgeon Center.]

On October 21, 1928, the ghost of Charles Spurgeon was raised from the dead. Or so the clairvoyant claimed. In a series of séances supervised by Canadian surgeon and paranormal researcher Thomas Glen Hamilton, the “entity” of the late Victorian evangelist made his presence known several times to a group of hand-clasped gatherers. According to Hamilton’s published report, Spurgeon even requested a hymn to be sung.

Three years later, Spurgeon’s ghost “returned” to preach a sermon on revival. His text—preached from beyond the grave—was Isaiah 52:10: “All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

In a pitch-dark room on April 26, 1931, the entranced medium closed her eyes and scribbled the words (allegedly spoken by Spurgeon): “The main instrumental cause of a great revival must be the bold, faithful, fearless preaching of the truth of the Divine Spirit from the Lord our God.”

Raising Spurgeon from the Grave

Spurgeon often suffered from “depression of spirit.” At times the preacher’s emotions peaked; at times they plummeted. “I am much tossed up and down,” Spurgeon said, “and although my joy is greater than the most of men, my depression of spirit is such as few can have an idea of.” The majority of his life was forged on the “anvil of affliction.”

Yet God raised Spurgeon from the grave on more than one occasion. Like in 1856, when seven people died at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall and Spurgeon almost quit the ministry. Or when Spurgeon came under attack in the media and fell into great anxiety.

In the late 1880s, Spurgeon couldn’t even open his hand because rheumatoid gout had frozen his fingers closed. Each of these dark seasons in his life prepared Spurgeon to say, “There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health.”

“Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library.”

Suffering was the secret of Spurgeon’s ministry because it enabled him to emphathize with others whose spirits were low. In other words, God never let Spurgeon suffer from having never to suffer.

For the Christian, sinking spirits produce “perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). What is hope without suffering? How would we identify light without darkness? God often uses our own darkness to show others the Light of World. He uses our own weakness to make others strong. Hope must always be extracted from affliction, for, as the Puritans used to say, only in the valley do we receive the vision.

Spiritual Revival Cannot Be Conjured

Did the medium really raise Spurgeon’s spirit from the grave in 1928? Sorry for the Halloween mythbust, but no. As it turns out, she had memorized a few cherrypicked paragraphs from Spurgeon’s 1858 sermon “The Great Revival.”

Ironically, the point of Spurgeon’s sermon, spoken through the spiritualist, was that true revival cannot be conjured up by our clever tactics, innovative inventions, or even by preaching great sermons. “Do not imagine,” Spurgeon said, “when you hear of a sermon being made useful, that it was the sermon itself that did the work.”

“If men were not such idiots as to doubt God, they would never sink so low as to believe in spiritualism.”

Spiritual revival cannot be summoned; it must be sent. From first to last, spiritual awakening is the work of God—designed, manufactured, and delivered by the One who specializes in resurrection. Spurgeon said:

“Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and my down castings, and get the victory through it; and so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it. In your most depressed seasons you are to get joy and peace through believing.”

In 1887, the Downgrade Controversy plummetted Spurgeon into a stressful spiral that resulted in his betrayal, abandonment, depression, illness, and eventual death. His wife, Susannah, claimed that the controversy killed him prematurely at the age of 57. Yet even in that midnight moment, Spurgeon saw a light flickering in the future.

Spurgeon prophesied, “I am quite willing to be eaten by dogs for the next fifty years. But the more distant future shall vindicate me.”

Spurgeon’s Spirit Still Speaks

Did Spurgeon believe in ghosts? Yes and no. He acknowledged the strange return of Samuel’s spirit (1 Samuel 28). But Spurgeon also denounced the “pretended communion” of spiritualism gaining popularly in London. He believed séances capitalized on the suffering of the bereft and took advantage of those who lost loved ones.

The spookiest thing about the séances of the 1920s and 30s is that if the medium had kept quoting from Spurgeon’s sermon, she would have uttered the following words:

“My soul has been made exceedingly full of happiness, by the tidings of a great revival of religion throughout the United States.”

The clairvoyant was correct. Spurgeon’s spirit has returned through the legacies of the Spurgeon LibrarySpurgeon’s College, and Spurgeons Children’s Charity, which celebrated their 150th anniversary this year and continues to offer light, love, and compassion to families throughout the United Kingdom.

Christians have always lived with the forward-looking hope that God will not leave his children in the dark. As John saw from his Patmos cave, one day God will “wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). True hope is not found through incantations or spiritual gimmicks. It’s not found in self-help remedies or sola bootsrapa doctrines. Instead, our hope derives from the triumphant Christ who stormed the gates of Hell, put the devil on the defensive, and declares, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

On this Halloween, keep in mind that the enemy is afraid of you! You are making noises beneath his bed. You are hiding in his closet.

Like Abel who “still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4), Spurgeon’s spirit still speaks. So treat yourself to one of his sermons and see how God raises your own spirit from the grave.

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Volume 1 and 2 of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon can be purchased in Standard or Collector’s Editions.

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The Marrow of the Matter: The Sanctification Debate Returns

Marrow Matter

It has taken me almost 27 years, and sanctification is still a tough subject to get around. It is, in my opinion, the doctrine where the rubber meets the road. The nature of good works and their relationship to sanctification is not a new debate. The Reformed tradition has come to this dispatch box for centuries, the Marrow Controversy has not died yet. Last week, John Piper lit the powder keg again saying,  These works of faith, and this obedience of faith, these fruits of the Spirit that come by faith, are necessary for our final salvation. No holiness, no heaven”. Of course, the Reformed community came back with either push back for affirmation.

But my effort in this is not to respond to either Dr. Piper or the responses to him. This of course may seem like I am dodging the war; but I want to respond to two things I myself have seen. I want to clarify the position of the “Free Grace” boys and give some push back to my New Law brothers. I think we have a serious discussion creeping up on us, and it has the potential to teach something that is contrary to the Scriptures.

What is sanctification? According to our Confession,

Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace,[97] whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God,[98] and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.[99] (WSC #35)

Right from the onset we must dispel some things about Sanctification. First, sanctification is a work of God’s grace. Man cannot please God apart from the Spirit’s work within him. He cannot merit for Himself any righteousness before God. The Confession leaves us no room to say that sanctification is our work. It is something that is wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. The prophet Ezekiel tells us this when he says:

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)

Second, sanctification is not passive. We are truly active in sanctification. We are equipped, by God’s free grace, to truly resist sin and to live according to God’s commands. Sin has no power over the Christian insofar that he cannot resist it. The believer is certainly given a new spirit that wills and wants that which is pleasing to God. We cannot deny this from the Confession either. By God’s grace we actively obey Him, and we break off the chains of sin.

I want to be very clear in these statements. Doubtless some will throw around the dread term antinomian for what I will say. However, I am not saying that the Christian should live in a state of unrepentance and passivity. Yes of course we should put to death the deeds of the flesh and chase after righteousness. We would not disagree on this.

However, my concern arises when we begin to treat good works as either the basis for our sanctification or the instrument by which the Spirit sanctifies us. Or that the Christian has a somewhat two fold justification: one that is given to us sola gratia, sola fide and one that is taken hold of per opera bona. This is utterly foreign to the Reformed tradition. Paul is clear that those who are justified and surely glorified.  (Romans 8:31) If these good works are Spirit wrought, how then can one obtain the promise of eternal life but never take it in actuality? However our Confession teaches that through good works believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God. But none of this speaks of good works being the instrument nor is it the means by which we take possession of eternal life.

Berkhof writes that good works, “do not have the inherit value which naturally carries with it a just claim to a reward.” This is because they are Spirit-wrought, not Christian-wrought. Whatever claim we have to them, we must be very quick to remind ourselves that they God working through us.

Good works then cannot be the instrument of sanctification. It is not that we are equipped to work and are thus sanctified. To argue this is to put the cart before the horse. It makes our sanctification (and thus our final salvation) dependent on our good works meriting God’s sanctifying work.

My fear is that there is a conflation in these discussions between justification and sanctification. Our New Law brothers at best are trying to ward off against anti-nomianism. I can appreciate that. However, they do a great disservice when they argue that our salvation is through good works and not unto good works. It is a dangerous place that this leads us to.

It leads us to a place that I saw one Southern Baptist seminarian go this weekend. Let’s call him Tim. Tim, in one of his many attempts to ignite the passions of his social media echo chamber, began to put a former Presbyterian minister on blast for an antinomian view. This pastor has not been on the stage for some time. But Tim likes to be heard and so attacked a formally ordained minister. However in doing so he makes the statement that it is “not enough” that we rest in our justification. My question is then: In whom then should I rest for my salvation? Jay? Jay is a terrible person to rest in. Jay is a sinner who daily has to repent. Do I have all that I need in Christ to be fully redeemed? Is it really finished? Or must I add to Christ’s work with my own sanctifying efforts as Rome tells me?

This is how serious the discussion is, it is the crux of the Reformation. Scripture clearly teaches that we are saved not by our works but by Christ. Our works are evidences of the faith and grace that has been freely given to us. But they are not the instrument of some final salvation. So to Tim, or anyone else who asks, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” I look to Christ who says, “Believe” and “come to me and take my yoke, for it is easy and my burden is light.”

What Would You Prefer?

So folks are still blasting Colin Kapernick’s form of protest even after a year. We’re still debating this whole issue. People have just taken to not watch football then let Kaepernick’s protest spark any kind of dialogue. Which hey, that your decision. You’re grown.

But let’s start at the top. Because we’re not talking about the real issue. Everyone’s made Kaepernick’s protest into something it’s not. Here’s what I mean:

Kaepernick isn’t protesting against Trump. He’s not blasting soldiers. He’s not said that he has been oppressed. Statistically, he’s better than several starting QB’s (though not Brady stats). He’s not protesting for antifa or anything like that.

He kneels because

Oscar Grant
Tamir Rice
Eric Garner
Philando Castile
Sandra Bland
Terrance Crutcher

Alton Sterling
Jordan Edwards
Sam Dubose

Michael Brown
John Crawford III
Akai Gurley
Rumain Brisbon
Eric Harris
Walter Scott

Have been killed by law enforcement.

These are all the ones that I could think of off the top of my head. If I looked them up, I’d probable have a longer post. But these were real people who were killed without a trial. And their killers have all walked. Free. Absolutely free. You want to talk about being prolife? Here you go. It’s all right here.

So let us then ask this question: What would YOU prefer? Because when black folks march, y’all get upset. When black folks riot you get upset, when black folks kneel you get upset. So is it the form of the protest, or the subject?

what would you prefer they do? Sweep it under the rug? Ignore the videos? Carry on? Shameful is what it is.

Kapernick is quietly, peacefully protesting which is his right. In fact, either nothing Tebow and Kapernick have the right to kneel, or nether of them do.

Believing Jane: Reflections on a Rape and it’s Cover-Up at The Master’s College & Seminary

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On this fine afternoon as thunder rumbles outside my window, my blood is boiling and my “injustice antenna” is sounding alarms. I just read a well-documented account of the rape of a Master’s College student. Her rapist was a student at the Master’s Seminary. Both of these institutions are associated with John MacArthur’s church Grace Community Church. When college and church staff learned of the rape, instead of supporting the victim, she was blamed, called to repent, and kicked out of school. You can read the full story on Marcy Preheim’s website at http://www.marcipreheim.com/2017/09/18/do-you-see-me/ but I will also provide a summary of the situation.

Jane (not her real name) was a 21 year old student at the Master’s College studying to become a Biblical Counselor. In her courses, she learned all about how to deal with situations of rape, including the importance of reporting it to the police. On a school break, she went to a restaurant with some friends who were students at the Master’s Seminary. (The restaurant was an approved location according to the strict guidelines for student behavior.) Also at the restaurant was a friend of her friends (also a Master’s Seminary student) who offered to buy her a drink. She said yes, and he brought her a Coke. But the coke was drugged. After she blacked out, the stranger carried her to his room where he raped her, drugged her again, and put her in a dress that was against the school dress code. He also repeatedly offered her alcohol to drink.

When Jane finally was conscious enough to realized that she had been drugged and raped, she confidently went to the police, knowing the importance of reporting such matters. She then spoke with her Residence Director, who was shocked–not at her rape, but at her use of alcohol and drugs. She was assigned a Biblical Counselor as well, who assured her that the only way to make this better would be to marry her rapist. She was also made to go see Rick Holland, the college pastor at Grace Community Church. He asked for all the details she could remember about her rape, much to her discomfort. (This is sexual harassment, by the way.) Rick consulted with Pastor John MacArthur and together they told her that she would be kicked out of school for violating school standards against alcohol and drugs. They were also angry that she had reported the situation to the police.

Jane was shocked at how people were responding to her, which was not at all in line with how she had been taught in her counseling classes to respond to allegations of rape. She was later contacted saying that she could finish her final year at the Master’s College under a few conditions. She found out that her rapist had confessed to raping her, specifically noting that their sex was not consensual. However, she was required to apologize to her rapist for her part in the matter. The second condition was she must consent to regular counseling sessions with her rapist. She refused, and was subsequently barred from campus. Up to that point she had received all A’s for her classes, but when she was expelled, the school changed all her grades to F’s. When she sought to further her education elsewhere, the appearance of her flunking out of college made that extremely difficult. After she left the Master’s College, she continued to receive messages from people associated with the Master’s College and Grace Community Church calling her to repent for fornication and drinking alcohol. The story was circulated that she was expelled for sleeping around and using drugs/alcohol.

That is Jane’s Story. She asks, do you see me? And yes, Jane! We see you! And I for one believe you! What happened to you, the rape itself, was a horrific crime! And the cover up and blame that ensued at the hands of “godly men and women” is unconscionable!

I know there are those who will blame Jane for coming forward with her story, for uncovering these “deeds of darkness.” Others will persecute her for daring to question their favorite Christian celebrities. Some will assume that she’s lying because of John MacArthur’s reputation and fame, even though she has documented evidence of the whole situation as well as a corroborating witness.

But for myself, I believe Jane. And I applaud her courage in speaking the truth.

I’ve heard enough stories like Jane’s to know that it’s possible for even famous Evangelical educational institutions and pastors to so grossly and horrificly mismanage cases of rape. I know that false allegations of rape are extremely rare. I also believe that faulty views on sexuality, authority, consent, gender roles, and submission played heavily into her story.
So I believe Jane. And I am angry at the injustice she experienced–the crime of rape, yes. But also the further injustice of being blamed, disbelieved, disciplined, and silenced as if she had been the perpetrator instead of the victim.

I also call to repentance the people at the Master’s College and Seminary who blamed and oppressed Jane. I call to repentance Rick Holland for his sexual harassment and punishment of Jane. And I call to repentance John MacArthur for participating in disciplining Jane for her drug and alcohol use (which was forced upon her!). These men and women have erred greatly and have caused harm to Jane and to the name of Christ. The best things for them to do now is to: acknowledge their wrong; repent; seek to make restitution to Jane, including clearing her name; seriously consider resigning from their jobs; and examine what sort of distorted theology can contribute to such gross injustice.

Jane asks “Do you see me?”

Yes, Jane, we do. We see you and we believe you.

Bring Your Talents to Westminster: Why My Reformed SBC Brothers Should Come Join the PCA

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In response to Dylan’s article just recently posted, I have a better solution: Come join the PCA.

The SBC is making it abundantly clear that they don’t want the Calvinists. I remember having to dance around Reformed theology in my sermons and when interviewing for positions. It made me feel like I was lying. I remember not getting invited to fill the pulpit because I was open that I was a Calvinist. If this new statement says anything, it says that you’re not the preponderance, not the main group.

Yes, THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has become a haven for Reformed Southern Baptists. And yes, we’d ask you to work through baptism and polity. But let’s see what Paige Patterson says:

“I know there are a fair number of you who think you are a Calvinist, but understand there is a denomination which represents that view,” Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said at the close of Tuesday’s chapel service. “It’s called Presbyterian.”

“I have great respect for them,” Patterson said. “Many of them, the vast majority of them, are brothers in Christ, and I honor their position, but if I held that position I would become a Presbyterian. I would not remain a Baptist, because the Baptist position from the time of the Anabaptists, really from the time of the New Testament, is very different.”

To that I say: come on!

Brothers, the grass is greener. I don’t have to dance around soteriolgy. I’m submitted men who take doctrine seriously. The standards for ordination are tighter, but you know your pastor is educated. And we sit under Word, Prayer, and Sacrament.

So come join us! We’ll gladly take you